Turn your garbage into gold, or in this case, turn it into a can of sardines.
Agapita “Pita” Eking, a 54-year-old mother of six, received a pleasant surprise from the city’s garbage collectors yesterday when they handed her four cans of sardines in exchange for four bags of garbage.
Eking lives in Sudlon, Barangay Lahug, one of the pilot areas of a Cebu City Hall project to trade cans of sardines for bags of trash handed over to the city’s garbage collectors by residents.
The program, implemented through the city’s Department of Public Services (DPS), is patterned after a creative garbage collection scheme practiced in Curitiba City, Brazil.
The Curitiba mayor had aimed to create a “healthy city” and started a reward system to encourage residents to collect their own garbage.
“They told the people there, ‘If you collect garbage we will give you eggs.’ It worked so well, they did it all over the city,” Osmeña narrated.
Osmeña said that he saw the practice with his own eyes when he visited the Brazilian city way back in 1997. Now still on its experimental stage, Osmeña said that if the program will work in one area, he planned to implement it in places which could not be reached by the city’s trucks.
“There are many areas that are hard to bring out the garbage. If it is hard for them, we will give them more cans of sardines,” he said.
The residents will have to wait outside for the garbage trucks to arrive so that they can load their garbage there, said Osmeña.
There will also be no need for garbage loaders as it will be the residents themselves who will load their own trash into the truck.
The system will give two benefits to the city, said Osmeña.
“One is giving food to the poor. Second, we will save on the loaders,” he said.
Additional garbage trucks to cover more routes may no longer be needed as well as residents will now be encouraged to take their garbage to the designated pick-up points in order to claim their can of sardines for every bag of trash surrendered.
Yesterday, residents of Sitio Riverside in Sudlon, Barangay Lahug who waited for the garbage truck to arrive thought that it would be like any other day for garbage collection.
But those who brought with them bags of trash like Pita got a gift of sorts from city hall’s DPS: a can of sardines for every bag of trash.
“We were so happy. I got four cans of sardines in exchange of the four bags of garbage that I have at home. It turned out to be a blessing,” Pita told Cebu Daily News in Cebuano.
As soon as they learned that DPS was giving out cans of sardines, many of Pita’s neighbors scrambled back home to hurriedly collect their trash.
Sitio Riverside reeks of rotten garbage, and hoards of flies on decaying food along the dried up river have become a common site. “They throw their garbage in the river. We have gotten used to it,” Pita said.
Seeing her neighbors rush back into their homes yesterday to collect more garbage with some of them picking up trash along the way was another pleasant surprise for Pita.
“I hope they (DPS) will come back. People were really encouraged to bring out their trash,” said Pita.
According to DPS assistant chief John Paul Gelasque, a total of 300 cans of sardines were given out to Sudlon residents in exchange for their bags of trash. Under the collection scheme, one bag-full of trash can be traded with one can of sardines, he said.
Gelasque said that funds for the program will be taken from the mayor’s Accelerated Social Amelioration Program (Asap).
Gelasque estimated that the city’s garbage reward system will start to run within the year after its pilot implementation phase. A P1 million to P2 million budget will be needed for the program, he added.
As for the mayor, Osmeña said that the project will be a learning process.
The city, Osmeña said, has to try something new to be continuously creative.
“The hidden benefit here is that we are cleaning up our drainage. We are starting in this area (Riverside) because they are throwing their garbage in the river. (Under this strategy) we don’t have to clean the river, hopefully,” he said, adding that this was also meant to alleviate poverty.
In Curitiba, the less fortunate there asks their neighbor for garbage so they would collect and throw it in exchange for food.
“We will try this first and monitor. We will use this as a showcase. The important thing is that we have a model,” Osmeña said.
Back in Pita’s home, their usual dish of “Utan Bisaya” (Boiled Vegetable) had to take a back seat as her family enjoyed a meal of “Sardines with Misua”.
“The can was full and it was delicious. They used tomato sauce,” a smiling Pita said in Cebuano.
She said that maybe next time, she can add an egg to the recipe.